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UK Business Visas

UK Business Visas allows individuals to come to the UK to carry out activities specifically related to an overseas business. Contact our immigration solicitors at +44 (0) 1293 522 275 or complete our contact form for a free consultation.

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November 10, 2023

Table of Contents

UK Business Visas Requirements and Categories

UK Business Visas facilitate the entry of individuals into the UK for activities specifically linked to an overseas business. According to current UK immigration regulations for businesses, there are various types of business visas, each serving different purposes:

  • Business Visitor Visa:
    • Purpose: Allows individuals to visit the UK for short periods for business-related activities such as meetings and conferences.
    • Duration: Typically short-term stays.
  • Short-term Business Visa:
    • Purpose: Designed for those undertaking short-term business ventures in the UK.
    • Duration: Allows stays for a limited period.
  • Innovator Visa:
    • Purpose: Geared towards experienced entrepreneurs looking to establish innovative businesses in the UK.
    • Eligibility: Requires a business plan and endorsement from an approved endorsing body.
  • Start-up Visa:
    • Purpose: Targets entrepreneurs launching a business for the first time in the UK.
    • Eligibility: Requires an innovative business idea and endorsement from an endorsing body.
  • Global Business Mobility Visas:
    • These encompass various categories designed for specific professional roles:
      • Senior or Specialist Worker Visa:
        • For senior or specialised employees transferring to the UK.
      • Graduate Trainee Visa:
        • Aimed at recent graduates participating in a structured training program.
      • Secondment Worker Visa:
        • Intended for employees temporarily transferring to a UK branch of their organisation.
      • Service Supplier Visa:
        • Allows employees to provide services in the UK on behalf of an overseas employer.

It’s important to note that significant changes have been made to business immigration rules in recent years. Consequently, the Tier 1 entrepreneur visa, Investor visa, Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) visa, and the Sole Representative visa are no longer available to new applicants. However, existing visa holders can extend their stay or apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) if they meet the eligibility criteria. Alternative replacements exist for most of the discontinued visas.

In the forthcoming article, we will delve into the specific objectives, advantages, and detailed visa requirements for each of the UK business immigration pathways.

Short-Term Business Visas for Business-Related Activities in the UK

For individuals requiring a temporary stay in the UK to conduct business-related activities, two primary visas fall under the visitor category:

  • Standard Visitor Visa (Short-Term UK Business Visa):
    • This visa grants permission for individuals to engage in various business activities in the UK for a duration of up to 6 months.Permitted business activities include:
      • Job-Related Activities:
        • Attending job interviews, work-related meetings, and events.
        Commercial Negotiations:
        • Meeting with clients for the negotiation and signing of commercial contracts.
        Business Promotion:
        • Attending trade fairs for business promotion (with a restriction on the sale of items).
        Training and Development:
        • Receiving work-related training not available in the home country.
        Knowledge Sharing:
        • Giving unpaid talks or series of talks.
        Site Visits and Inspections:
        • Conducting site visits and inspections in the UK.
        Project Oversight:
        • Overseeing the delivery of goods and services provided by a UK-based company to an overseas business.
        Training Initiatives:
        • Providing training or sharing knowledge.
        Contractual Engagements:
        • If an overseas company has a contract with a UK company or organisation: installing, dismantling, repairing, servicing, or providing expertise on equipment, computer software, and hardware.
    It’s essential to note that paid or unpaid work for a UK-based business or self-employment is not allowed on a standard visitor visa. In such cases, individuals must apply for a Permitted Paid Engagement visa.
  • Permitted Paid Engagement Visa:
    • This visa allows individuals to visit the UK for up to 1 month to undertake a paid engagement for which they have been invited as a specialist or expert in their profession by a UK-based business.

It’s crucial to be aware of the distinction between these visas and adhere to their specific conditions.

Requirements for Short-Term UK Business Visa

To be eligible for a Short-Term Business Visa in the UK, individuals must meet the following criteria:

  1. Genuine Intent to Depart:
    • Demonstrate a sincere intention to leave the UK before the visa expiration date.
  2. Adequate Financial Support:
    • Possess sufficient funds to sustain themselves and any dependants throughout their stay in the UK. Alternatively, it is permissible for someone else to provide the necessary financial support, but substantiating evidence, such as a letter of support, must be provided.
  3. Financial Means for Return or Onward Journey:
    • Have the financial means to cover the cost of a return or onward journey.
  4. Non-Long-Term Residency Intent:
    • Not intend to utilise the visa as a means of residing in the UK for extended periods through frequent or successive visits.

These requirements are essential for ensuring eligibility for a short-term UK business visa.

Innovator Visa

The UK Innovator Visa stands as a pivotal business visa, providing opportunities for entrepreneurs and business professionals from overseas to establish innovative enterprises in the UK. This visa replaces the former Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa, and individuals still retain the option to seek an extension under the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa. Additionally, those holding a valid entrepreneur visa have the privilege to settle in the UK and bring their dependant family members along.

Applicants for the Innovator visa must convincingly demonstrate to the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) that they:

  • Age Requirement:
    • Are aged 18 years or above.
  • Financial Investment:
    • Possess £50,000 or more in investment funds.
  • Business Plan Criteria:
    • Develop a comprehensive business plan that outlines a unique, innovative, viable, and scalable business.
  • Endorsement by UK Endorsing Body:
    • Secure endorsement for the business plan from an approved UK endorsing body.
  • English Language Proficiency:
    • Satisfy the specified English language requirements.
  • Financial Sustainability:
    • Maintain sufficient savings to sustain themselves during their stay in the UK.

Upon a successful application, Innovator visa holders are typically granted permission to stay in the UK for an initial period of up to 3 years. Subsequently, an extension of the Innovator visa is possible after three years. Notably, the Innovator visa offers one of the swiftest paths to permanent settlement, known as Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), allowing eligible individuals to apply after completing just 3 continuous years in the UK.

Start-Up Visa

The Start-Up Visa serves as a business visa, granting entry to overseas business individuals and entrepreneurs possessing entry-level business experience. This visa allows them to establish a new and innovative business in the UK, and notably, there is no mandatory requirement for investment funds when applying for a UK Start-Up visa.

Start-Up Visa applicants must effectively demonstrate to the UK Visas and Immigration that they:

  1. Age Requirement:
    • Are 18 years or above.
  2. Comprehensive Business Plan:
    • Possess a well-developed business plan outlining a unique, innovative, viable, and scalable business.
  3. Endorsement from UK Endorsing Body:
    • Secure endorsement for their business plan from an approved UK endorsing body.
  4. Business Skills Proficiency:
    • Have, or be developing, the necessary business skills required to establish a business in the UK.
  5. English Language Proficiency:
    • Meet the specified English language requirements.
  6. Financial Sustainability:
    • Maintain sufficient savings to support themselves during their stay in the UK.

Start-Up Visas are typically issued for a duration of 2 years. However, it’s important to note that this visa cannot be extended beyond this period, and it does not provide a direct route to settlement. Individuals holding a Start-Up visa who wish to stay in the UK beyond the initial 2-year term and potentially settle must apply for another visa type that qualifies for settlement, such as the Innovator visa.

Global Business Mobility Visa

The Global Business Mobility scheme, introduced by UKVI in April 2022, comprises 5 new visas strategically crafted to facilitate overseas businesses in expanding into the UK market. The Global Business Mobility visa types include:

  • Senior or Specialist Worker Visa:
    • Replacing the Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) Visa, this is tailored for overseas senior managers and employees with specialised skills aiming to work in a UK branch or subsidiary of their employer.
    • Requirements:
      • Sponsorship is essential.
      • Hold a Certificate of Sponsorship.
      • Occupation must be on the list of eligible occupations.
      • A minimum annual salary of £42,000 is required.
    • Duration: Holders can stay in the UK for up to 5 years, with the possibility of extension based on an annual salary of £73,900 or more. Settlement is not applicable, but a switch to a different qualifying visa for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) is possible.
  • Graduate Trainee Visa:
    • Replacing the Intra-Company Transfer Graduate Visa, this visa permits overseas employees to work in the UK for a branch or subsidiary of their employer.
    • Requirements:
      • Sponsorship is mandatory.
      • Participation in a graduate training program.
      • A minimum salary of £23,100 per year.
      • Worked for the sponsor outside the UK for 3 months or more.
  • UK Expansion Worker Visa:
    • Replacing the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business Visa UK, this visa facilitates the sending of a senior manager to the UK to establish a business presence.
    • Requirements:
      • Hold a valid Certificate of Sponsorship.
      • Worked for the employer outside the UK for at least 12 months.
      • Eligible job with a minimum annual salary of £42,400 or the ‘going rate.’
    • Duration: Initial stay of up to 12 months, extendable to a maximum of 2 years. Settlement is not an option.
  • Secondment Worker Visa:
    • This visa allows overseas workers to be transferred by their employer to work on a high-value contract with a UK business.
    • Requirements:
      • 1 year or more of employment with an overseas business having a high-value contract with the UK licensed sponsor.
      • Valid Certificate of Sponsorship.
      • Job on the list of eligible occupations.
    • Duration: Up to 12 months, extendable to a maximum of 2 years. Settlement is not feasible.
  • Service Supplier Visa:
    • Designed for overseas employees and self-employed individuals to provide services to a UK company under an international trade agreement.
    • Requirements:
      • Work for an overseas business or be an overseas self-employed service provider.
      • Provide services under a contract as part of an international trade agreement in the UK (UK-based business must be a licensed sponsor).
      • Have an eligible job, necessary qualifications, and professional experience.
      • Hold a valid Certificate of Sponsorship.
    • Duration: Stay of up to 6 or 12 months, depending on the trade agreement. Settlement is not an option.

How to Apply for a UK Business Visa

The application process you will need to undertake depends on the specific type of visa you are seeking. In most instances, you should follow these steps:

  • Review Eligibility and Requirements:
    • Examine the requirements for the particular visa you are applying for to ensure eligibility.
  • Certificate of Sponsorship or Endorsement:
    • Depending on the business visa type, you might require a valid Certificate of Sponsorship or an endorsement letter. For a visitor visa, a letter from the relevant business explaining your activities in the UK may be necessary.
  • Prepare and Submit Online Application:
    • Complete and submit your visa application through the UKVI website.
  • Pay Visa Application Fees:
    • Pay the applicable visa application fees. For long-term visas, you may also need to pay the immigration healthcare surcharge for access to health services in the UK.
  • Book Biometric Appointment:
    • Schedule an appointment at a UKVCAS service point (if in the UK) or a visa application centre (VAC) (if outside the UK) for biometric processing.
  • Upload Supporting Documents:
    • Upload any required documents specified by UKVI to support your application, such as evidence of investment funds.
  • Attend Biometric Appointment:
    • Attend your biometric appointment to have your fingerprints scanned and your photo taken.
  • Wait for Decision:
    • Await a decision on your UK business visa application.
  • Possible Interview:
    • Be prepared for the possibility of attending an interview to discuss your application.

When making any business visa application, providing clear evidence to substantiate your eligibility is crucial, especially for long-term visas like the Start-up and Innovator visas.

At JPS Immigration, we have assisted numerous overseas businesses and individuals in securing the necessary immigration permissions to operate in the UK. We specialise in aiding foreign nationals in obtaining UK citizenship through investment.

For expert guidance on securing a UK business visa, please consult our immigration lawyers for a complimentary telephone consultation at +44 (0) 1293 522 275 or via email at mail@staging.jpsimmigration.com.

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